Scientists Study Why Big Dogs Die Younger Than Small Dogs

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Big dogs tend to die earlier than small dogs. Now researchers are finding out why and what it could mean for other species, including humans, according to LiveScience.

While larger species live longer on average than smaller species - elephants live to about 70 years while mice live only about 4 years, for example - smaller animals within species tend to outlive their larger counterparts.

Because dogs are a single species that has been bred by humans over the centuries into countless breeds of wildly different sizes and shapes, researchers have been able to study the breeds to determine how size affects life expectancy. They have observed that larger dogs simply age faster than their smaller cousins. "Their lives seem to unwind in fast motion," said Cornelia Kraus, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Gottingen in Germany.

The new research shows that in dogs, about one month of life expectancy is lost for every 4.4 pounds a dog weighs. A 155-lb Great Dane has a life expectancy of about 7 years, while a 9-lb Poodle can live up to about 14 years.

In addition to faster aging, bigger dogs also seem more susceptible to developing cancer than small dogs. This may correlate with size, because cancer is a disease of cell growth.

Researchers hope the new findings will lead to greater insight into the biological links between growth and mortality in other mammals.


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my sister has a min-shelty and that dog lived for 17 yrs....with all her health problems she still hung on. We joked that she was the dog that refused to die!

March 08 2013 at 10:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Our Yorkie is 17.5 years old. He's always been about 8 lbs., so he's not one of those 3 pounders. He is the sweetest dog with the best disposition. I bought him at a pet store 17 years ago before I knew that was a bad thing to do. The other dogs were jumping everywhere and he was sitting there quietly and I felt bad for him. He has been such a good dog. Now he can't see or hear and he can't control his bladder, etc very well. He is arthritic and won't walk up or down stairs anymore but doesn't cry and doesn't seem to be in pain. He's just old. He can't be upstairs bc we can't realistically have him ruin 10k worth of hardwood floors so I feel so bad to have him stay downstairs even if it's a finished space. sigh. This getting old stuff sux. But, yes, apparently small dogs can live a long, long life.

March 08 2013 at 8:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Had an adopted Great Pyr/Golden Retreiver mix that made 16 years. The vet was amazed and just told us to do whatever we were doing for him, Fed normal food, but he made himself a major part of the family, always around us and loved to play, very active. Just like they found for people keeping the brain engaged and personal interaction help longevity, Will miss that dog every day for the rest of my life.

March 08 2013 at 4:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have a Siberian husky that turned 14 two days ago. he weighs 95 pounds and still drags me around every morning chasing after squirrels. strong as an ox and keeps the younger huskies in line!

March 07 2013 at 7:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Any small dog is a use of oxygen on this planet. They all bark incessantly just because they are allowed to by the dim-witted owners, who think it is SO cute.

March 07 2013 at 7:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ducklakeman's comment

stereotype much?

March 08 2013 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Barb and Russ

Good news for small dogs.With all the gains in human life. People are now living to mid and late eighties. Where is the research on extending life expectancy on all dogs.Surley mans
best friend and my two duchsounds would appreciate that. We like all dog lovers whant are dogs with us alot longer than ten to fifteen years.I am confident that millions of dog lovers would be
gald to donate money for research. We would love to hear from anybody out thier that has information on this subject.

March 07 2013 at 5:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Baron hans Vongress

They are correct
I have bred and raised dogs for over 40 yrs
At one time human father to 10 St Bernards.
We lost them at 6 months (Parvo even though the dog was vaccinated), to age 7-10 average.
Our oldest Saints lived to be 15 and 16.
Our small dogs Toy Fox Terrier lived to be 20 yrs old, and our Chihuhuahs and Poms and Min Pins have lived into 18-20 yrs old.
Its the food, exercise, good loving that helps dogs live longer.
Did we have cancer yes, sadly 70% of our dogs have died from cancer big and small, and heart disease, diabetes and epilepsy.
BUT with the right vet(s), medications etc your dog can live a long happy life.

March 07 2013 at 4:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I can understand certain breeds not living as long as they can, but some breeds that are even big can live longer than their expected age...One of my moms friends had a Saint Bernard lived past 10, my aunt had a Cocker Spaniel that lived past 10, before she gave her up due to financial issues. I personally feel that the scientist who did these studies should take another look and pull out the list of dogs that can live longer than their expected age, and put a list of big dogs and small dogs that either can live long or have health problems that can affect the life long-term.

March 07 2013 at 4:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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